There are few things more unpredictable than a newborn, especially their sleep schedule. My daughter was a notoriously bad sleeper through the first year of her life. Every night she'd wake at least two times to either nurse or require soothing. There were a few breakdowns where I whispered to my husband "I can't take it anymore!" Even though I knew I'd be right back to being woken up the next night, I never actually dreaded the bedtime process.
Now, clearly that sounds insane, but I promise, I'm not a secret masochist. I knew the middle of the night could be rough, but putting my daughter to bed has always been surprisingly easy. We've never had to do much coddling to get her to sleep. Even now, as an almost three-year-old, she easily occupies herself in her bedroom until she's ready to fall asleep, only coming downstairs if she needs to use the bathroom. How did we manage to make this happen?
Well, I definitely think it's a little bit of karma because overnight was so rough and thankfully it's no longer that hard. However, I think the real secret is we started Tess on a bedtime routine when she was one week old. I know that sounds more than a little crazy, but we firmly believed if we could establish a nighttime routine early enough, we'd have fewer issues down the line. So far, it seems to be paying off in spades.
I'm sure your first question is, "How do you put a one-week-old on a bedtime routine?" Well, it was actually pretty easy. We started by eating dinner at roughly the same time every night, mostly so we knew when to get started on our nighttime routine. Next, we'd give Tess a bath, rub her down with some lotion, put her in her pajamas, read her a book (because it's never too early to start), nurse and then go right into her crib. All this would be done so she'd be in her crib and we'd be exiting the room each night by 7 p.m.
Timing was crucial for us, because as Tess got use to her routine, failing to get her into bed at 7 could mean a cranky kid. We were very upfront with friends and family that any evening activities had to end with us at home by 6:30 p.m. so we could meet our 7 p.m. bedtime schedule. Truly, everyone was more than accommodating, with friends even routinely coming to our house for dinner so it would be easier.
Crankiness was not the only reason timing was so important to us. To be completely honest, a dependable bed time was really always about routine for Jordan and I. Regardless of when Tess would wake up again, some nights earlier than others, we always knew we had a couple of hours to be child free. This was so crucial for us and something we're so glad we started from the beginning of our parenting journey.
Those few hours each night were completely ours. We could use them to have an at-home date night to reconnect or get some much-needed alone time. Even more crucial, we could use those hours to study, because yes, we were super insane and both working our way towards a Masters degree not even a month after our daughter was born. Regardless of what we used the time for, it felt good to have dedicated space to not be a parent for a little while.
That first year is a wild ride. As much as you are in love with your new child, little sleep and lack of hours for yourself can really take their toll. Being a parent is my favorite job, but I still prioritize and relish in the hours that I get to have with just my husband or completely by myself. I crave those hours because they make the time I spend with my daughter seem even more special. And sometimes, I need them because being a parent is hard work and you just need a little break!
Having that time to refresh each night made dealing with middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, teething, sleep regressions, developmental leaps and growths spurts much more tolerable. Even during the worst nights I was able to remind myself it was only temporary, tomorrow night would be different, but I'd still have a few glorious hours tomorrow to be myself again, not just a parent, and help me regain some sanity.
This is me. I'm tired, still very postpartum and I'd just started up my second round of antibiotics for mastitis. My baby had just had her tongue tie fixed, which had made our nursing relationship start off a little rocky.
Don't be afraid. This isn't a story about how my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter was littered with struggle and stubbornness, though I am very stubborn. This also isn't a story meant to shame mamas who are on the brink of calling it on this whole nursing thing or the mamas who've long since made that decision.
This is a story to detail another option out there, show there are ways to overcome breastfeeding difficulty and that those decisions should be made by you and what your heart is telling you. If your heart is saying "Dang it, I want this breastfeeding thing to work!" then that's awesome! If you're like "Yeah, I've worked really hard, given my best to my baby and now I need to give my best to myself" I think that is awesome too. Let's begin.
Breastfeeding is Natural
Yes, breastfeeding is natural in so much that you're feeding your baby with the food specifically designed for them. Mamas, there is not this animal instinct that kicks in and tells you exactly how to get that food into your baby. That's why there are lactation experts and people like me, your doula, to be there for you.
My daughter had tongue tie, which means her little tongue was attached a bit too much to the bottom of her mouth. This condition is very common and made her ability to draw milk from my breast difficult. This resulted in very sore nipples, cracking and mastitis.
We tried a lot of different techniques which provided small leaps in success. From using a nipple shield and nipple creams, to spoon feeding and eventually a small procedure to correct her tongue tie. All of this helped, but we still had to catch up. My daughter had been learning to nurse incorrectly, so there was still a lot of learning before we finally got the hang of this breastfeeding thing.
Then I got mastitis again. I freaking lost it you guys. How could this happen again? We fixed everything? This was supposed to be magically better. Why do my toes still curl when my baby latches? What in the fork is going on?
My daughter was going through a growth spurt and wanting to nurse all the time, I wasn't going to make it. I wanted to quit. But dang it, I wanted to experience at least once what it felt like to have my baby breastfeed without it ending in tears.
I met with another lactation consultant. Serendipity led me to this woman at the right time, because we fit. She saw me. She got me. She knew just what I needed at that exact time. A nursing holiday.
A nursing holiday doesn't sound luxurious, but folks, it really is. My lactation angel suggested I take 24 to 48 hours to stop breastfeeding. Yep. Stop breastfeeding.
She wanted me to take time to not only let my nipples heal, but my spirit heal as well. She suggested I use my breast pump every two hours to express milk and prevent engorgement and then feed my baby that milk from a bottle. She taught my husband and I how to feed my daughter with a bottle in a way that slowed milk flow and would help make the transition back to breast easier.
Then she said "Take this time for yourself and after your holiday is over, reassess if you want to keep breastfeeding." I had an out if I wanted it. That acknowledgment from another person that I still had control gave me the renewed spirit to keep breastfeeding.
Because it was a weekend, my husband was able to feed my daughter while I pumped and stayed in bed mending my body and soul. I remember thinking really hard about what I wanted, what I would regret and what I was okay with. I ended my holiday and I made my decision.
Where Are They Now?
It took several months to get into a groove with my daughter while nursing. I pumped for a year and a half. She went on nursing strikes. Sometimes we'd supplement with a formula if we needed to. She night nursed until she was 11-months-old. She's two and she's still nursing.
Having the concept of a nursing holiday as a tool for my mamas is a gift. It's that tool that allows mamas to not only heal their bodies, but heal their spirits. Breastfeeding is a huge responsibility to take on at such a tender time. I think it's important for mamas to know they have options, they are being seen for who they are at that moment. There are always ways to help keep that breastfeeding relationship going, but only if they want to.
Cloth diapers can be a wonderful choice for the environment, your child’s health and your budget. Using cloth diapers means less difficult-to-break-down disposables end up in the landfill, fewer chemicals and fragrances near your baby’s skin and a one-time diaper purchase that quickly pays for itself.
Even with all of those wonderful benefits, a lot of families choose not to use cloth diapers because the idea seems so complicated and frankly, a little gross! I’m here to tell you it’s not as complicated as it seems. Honestly, I wish I could say it isn’t gross at times, but it’s a diaper; cloth or not, once in a while it will be, let’s just say, shocking.
The good news is folks, if your baby is breastfed, there is no need to rinse those poopy diapers! Breastmilk bowel movements are water soluble, which means the mess will rinse away completely in the wash. And don’t worry, because it’s water soluble, it effectively disappears rather than hanging around in your washer and dryer.
Once your baby starts eating solids, you only need to shake the BM into the toilet and give a quick rinse. Most kitchen sprayers can be attached to your toilet so clean up is quick. Done? Just throw it into the wash! I love the Bumkins cloth diaper sprayer to get the job done.
Going places while cloth diapering may seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many wonderful resources that sell wet bags to store any dirty diapers while you’re on the go.
Wet bags keep any mess inside the bag until you are ready to clean your diapers. Just bring your wet bag with you while you’re out and “disposing” of dirty diapers becomes a lot easier. There are even wet/dry bags which allow you to put dirty diapers in the wet pouch and keep unused diapers in the dry pouch.
My personal favorite bags are from Planet Wise. These bags come in many different sizes and really cute patterns.